HARARE – Zimbabwe is ready to co-operate with Libya in identifying funds and assets allegedly hidden by the late Muammar Gaddafi's regime in the country, a top government official official has said.
The development also follows a Weekend Post expose that Harare was now under the spotlight as Prime Minister Usama al Abid's enoys had cut a deal with the South African government to return billions worth of assets plundered by the fallen regime, as part of a global probe and effort to recover the loot.
With the exercise reigniting debate and focus on leaders such as President Robert Mugabe, and how much could possibly be stashed in Zimbabwe, Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Joey Bimha told the Daily News on Sunday that although no official communication had been made from Tripoli – concerning the trace of Gaddafi’s wealth – the government was ready to co-operate if the request was made.
“I cannot comment on that since it has not happened as we have not received any request of assistance from the Libyan government but if they make the request we can help them as the Libyan authorities knows the procedure to follow,” said Bimha.
In South Africa (SA), the probe has already began after Tripoli’s representations to South African Finance’s minister Pravin Gordhan.
The development also comes amid reports that another late African strongman Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi had $1 million-plus squirrelled in a local bank and nearly $300 million of Gaddafi cash could be hidden in the country.
However, ex-Libyan Ambassador to Harare Taher Elmagrahi has indicated to this paper that the search for looted funds was going to cover Zimbabwe as the slain dictator had various investment deals with President Robert Mugabe’s successive governments.
“I am aware that Zimbabwe was one of the countries that Gaddafi was making some investments and our government is also interested in finding out what happened to the investments, and the investigators will be coming there for a briefing on those matters,” Elmagrahi said.
With Mugabe and Gaddafi confirmed as big buddies since the liberation struggle days, the eccentric dictator made several investments in the banking, farming, mining, property, petroleum and tourism sectors in post-independent Zimbabwe, which are now the subject of interest from the new Tripoli regime.
As the spotlight turns on Harare, government insiders said Libyan investigators were also targeting Angola, where a suspected $700 million is kept.
And as the global hunt for public assets stolen under the Jamahiriya proponent’s four decades-rule, investigators say they have identified $1 billion-plus worth of cash, gold and other assets in SA, and which they want repatriated as soon as possible.
In its effort to recover the stolen public funds, the new Tripoli government has written to several African countries for cooperation in tracing and securing assets hidden under the late Gaddafi’s wives, sons, daughters, close associates, relatives, private and government and or business people on the continent.
In August 2011, Elmagrahi and four of his senior staffers recommended to the then caretaker administration in Libya that deals stitched together between Gaddafi and Mugabe’s successive Zanu PF governments are nullified.
“We have asked the National Transitional Council (NTC) to cancel all the deals that Gadaffi was making with Mugabe’s government and they have agreed since Mugabe is refusing to recognise the NTC,”
Libyan’s first counsel to Zimbabwe Mohammad Elbarat told The Daily News at the time, adding other bilateral agreements with the country would continue.
Libyan people learned of state funds in SA and the region after the extradition of former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi from Mauritania.
In his evidence, the stricken intelligence boss also said part of that money was allegedly being held by Gaddafi’s former chief of staff Bashir Saleh.
An ex-head Libya’s $40 billion sovereign wealth fund, which held much of the country’s oil cash, Saleh is wanted in the Mediterranean country for fraud and is the target of an Interpol arrest warrant under the alias Bashir al-Shrkawi.
As it is, several high-ranking officials of the Gaddafi regime have been linked to corruption scandals, which emerged after his 2011 death and, this year, the new Tripoli administration adopted a law barring Gaddafi-era officials from holding government posts.